Our Student Voices series gives our students a chance to blog about life at QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. This edition is written by Patrick Hennessey, third year zoology student, who recently went to the Horniman Museum with staff and students from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.
When it comes to the general public and palaeontology there seems to be great confusion about what the field is actually about, and the fact that it is a serious area of scientific research. So when Zoology Lecturer Dr Dave Hone asked a motley group of us from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (namely: Reader Dr Chris Faulkes, undergraduates Connie Chapman and Hanna Merchant, MSc student Annie Doronina and PhD student Andy Knapp, plus me) to go to the Horniman Museum to talk to the public, we were delighted.
The day started with a look around the amazing exhibition that was opening that day at the Horniman: “Dinosaurs: Monster Families”. It is an incredible exhibition with some amazing fossils on show (although they were mostly casts). Dr Hone even showed us around as well, and told us where the original fossil resides plus the names of all the fossils.
After we looked around the exhibition, and the mandatory photo in front of the big theropod, it was time to head over to the education centre at the Horniman. We spent most of the day here where we discussed the various skulls that we had with us: a lion, a Dimetrodon (an early mammal), a phorusrachid (a large prehistoric carnivorous bird), and of course our school mascot Queenie, the Tyrannosaurus rex, as well as how the skulls are different in different animals and showing the similarity between the lion skull and the Dimetrodon skull.
We ran an activity where children (and even some adults) were able to push teeth from different species of predatory non-avian dinosaurs into clay to see the teeth marks that they made. It was incredible to see the reaction of the children and the adults when you explain to them that the teeth marks that you can see in the clay are found on actual fossils as well, due to the feeding behaviour of both T. rex and Carcharodontosaurus.
Whilst all of these activities where going on Dr Hone was also giving talks about the taxonomy of dinosaurs in a separate part of the museum. Though it was aimed at children, even the adults were sitting quietly on the carpet, where they were informed that birds are in fact modern day dinosaurs.